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Picking a spot

Picking a spot Picking a spot

Committee not sold on Westboro location for planned highway shop

Taylor County highway committee members on Tuesday formalized their support of keeping a satellite shop in the Rib Lake area, but where that shop will be located remains a question mark.

The current Rib Lake shop takes up about an acre of land between Northern Cabinetry and a residential property. According to buildings and grounds supervisor Jeff Ludwig, the facility has a number of issues including accessibility, heating and the age of the structures. The biggest issue is one of space with maneuvering equipment being a challenge.

In the past, the county had considered eliminating the Rib Lake shop entirely and consolidating equipment and personnel at the main shop location in Medford. More recently, committee members have looked at proposals to build a new shop that would include additional storage space on county-owned land near the Westboro wayside on Hwy 13. During Tuesday’s meeting, which began at the Rib Lake shop and continued to the Rib Lake fire hall, committee member Ray Soper called on the committee to make it clear if they want to keep a shop in the Rib Lake area.

Committee member Jim Gebauer spoke in favor of keeping a shop in that part of the county as a need to serve residents there. Many of the people who live in the northeast part of the county work in Medford and having plow trucks based in Rib Lake ensures roads heading into the city are cleared before the lanes heading out of the city.

Committee members voted unanimously to keep a shop in the Rib Lake area. Likewise they were in favor of the proposed size shop plan that commissioner Ben Stanfley proposed with a combination of cold and heated spaces.

The cold storage spaces would be used for equipment used during the road construction season, but which is taken only to and from worksites as needed. Committee chairman Scott Mildbrand said he felt moving some of this equipment would reduce pressure on the Medford shop location increasing the useful life of the main shop by decades. He noted that plans to expand at the Medford site were projected to be more than $14 million and if the county could spend $1.2 million to achieve the same goals they would be ahead.

The bone of contention for the committee is where a Rib Lake area shop should be located. The major appeal of the Hwy 13 location in Westboro is that it is already owned by the county. However, since it is enrolled as county forest land, it will take about six months and included having to get approval by the forestry committee and county board and the OK from the Department of Natural Resources to take that land out of county forest.

Gebauer questioned the Westboro location over concerns that it would increase the time for plowing.

Stanfley said it would add only about six minutes to the travel time, while actually improving travel time for other routes by being located on the main travel corridor. Committee member Rollie Thums questioned if the county had looked at other places around the village. He noted that having a shop in the village was a benefit to village residents because it eliminated the village from needing its own salt and sand storage area. Instead the village just buys the material off the county as needed.

Locations such as the old shoe factory lot in the village were suggested as being potentially large enough for it.

Soper said he was not sold on the idea of going with the land by the wayside just because it was already owned by the county. “We ought to be looking at an ideal location not a compromise location,” Soper said.

He noted for the cost of the project, the savings of using county-owned land were not significant when they could instead locate the shop in a better location.

Stanfley said the ideal location would probably be at the corner of Hwy 13 and Hwy 102 allowing access directly to both roads. He is going to work with the route mapping to determine where the best location would be to serve maintenance and plow routes most efficiently.

If the current shop was no longer needed, options include using it for other cold storage needs such as law enforcement evidence storage or selling it. Ludwig reported that he contacted the neighboring business who said they would be interested in acquiring it.

In other business, committee members:

_ Referred a recommendation for the top five engineering consultants for a CTH O reconstruction project planned for 2022. The state will negotiate with and pick a consultant from that group for the project that is being driven with state grant dollars. Stanfley said he could see the project including an additional traffi c lane especially near the Whelen Ave. and Gibson St. intersections. Stanfley said his top recommendations were for the companies that previously worked on the box culvert replacement on CTH O and on the bridge deck replacement there. He said this gave them experience in working with the industries in Medford and understanding the traffic flow in the area. In conjunction with that project the county would do a mill and overlay from Gibson St. to CTH Q and a chipseal on the remaining portion of CTH O to where it joins with Hwy 64 to the west.

_ Approved a resolution honoring retiree Joe Obenhoffer who worked for 39 years as a machinist and welder with the highway department.